Q. My 12-year-old daughter has very large bowel movements, so large, in fact, that she quite often plugs the toilet. They are hard and dry. She has no other health problems.
She eats a relatively well-balanced diet with lots of fruit and some veggies, but, of course, some junk food as well. She drinks water, juice and maybe a couple of pops a week. She is very active.
Her doctor suggested a teaspoon of Milk of Magnesia (MOM) a day. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The label says not to take it more than two weeks and I am becoming concerned. I finally got her to tell me that she was holding her BMs in. I told her that if she stopped holding them, we could stop the MOM, and her problem would go away.
She has now assured me that she has stopped holding them in and we stopped the MOM, but the problem isn’t gone. Do you have any suggestions? I don’t like the thought of her taking MOM and becoming dependent on laxatives for the rest of her life.
A. If your daughter develops a laxative habit now, it could set her up for further problems with constipation later in life. Here are some alternatives: Ask her to drink a bit more water every day. A cool water bottle for her backpack might help. Pack more whole-grain fiber into her diet, perhaps with bran cereal or a bran muffin for breakfast.
Believe it or not, sugarless gum could be part of the solution. The sweeteners in them (mannitol, sorbitol) have a mild laxative action. Your daughter is likely to find gum a lot more enjoyable than Milk of Magnesia.
You will find lots more useful information in our Guide to Constipation and Digestive Disorders for more details and a tasty dynamite bran muffin recipe. Anyone else who would like to download these guides can click on the links. When all else fails there is “Power Pudding” which nurses have been recommending for decades to help patients overcome constipation.